I'm writing this on Thursday, December 8. Thirty one years ago today I was living in Arkansas, and at that time had a dog named Zack. Zack was a cutie: small, black, a Pekinese/cocker spaniel mix. He was also outrageously stupid and was impossible to house train.
Thirty one years ago today, I recall being in bed when the telephone rang. Now I was never exactly bohemian, but in 1980 I'd only been out of college a couple of years and my living conditions were a bit loose. That is to say, my mattress was on the floor, as was my telephone. I remember answering the phone that night and hearing a college friend on the other end of the line sobbing. I knew something was wrong. I was distracted, though, by the fact that my ear and the left side of my face were wet. After what seemed like a long time of puzzling I finally put it all together, and that's how I found out John Lennon had been killed. There in bed, with dog urine all over my face.
The Beatles, as many of us remember, were something quite special. Before The Beatles, American kids cruised around in cars and had drag races. After The Beatles American kids took to the streets in protest. John, Paul, George, and Ringo changed our hair, our clothes, and the way we listened to music. Songs were no longer toe-tapping dance tunes. After The Beatles, we pressed our ears to radio speakers and listened for messages, trying to decipher what (if anything) the boys from Britain were trying to tell us. The four moptops weren't just a band. They represented a turning point in history, and whether or not they actually kicked off the change didn't matter. For better or worse, The Beatles changed our lives forever, and nothing after The Beatles would ever be quite the same.
Then, on a chilly day in early December thirty one years ago, somebody shot John Lennon outside his apartment building in New York City. I couldn't make sense of such a heinous act then, and in 2011 I still can't. All I know is that on December 8, 1980, the world became a little bit darker. Just as The Beatles were a turning point for so many of us back in the 1960s and '70s, Mark David Chapman's act of selfish violence signaled another turning point. John Lennon was dead and life would go on, but somehow...nothing would ever be quite the same.
It's hard to believe John has been gone so long, and for my part, I hope Mr. Chapman has not enjoyed his time in captivity. What he stole from us these long years can never be recovered: the gifts one of music's most prolific and profound songwriters might have given us in the three decades since his voice was silenced for good -- and for no reason -- on a dark street in New York.